Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 15, 2002
Canadian Church leaders decry Israeli occupation
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories in defiance of United Nations resolutions is at the heart of the current violence in the Middle East, say the leaders of the Anglican and United churches in Canada.
Archbishop Michael Peers, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Right Rev. Marion Pardy, Moderator of the United Church of Canada, said in separate letters published in the National Post April 5 there can be no peace until Israel withdraws its forces from occupied territory.
Their sentiments echo those of the Vatican which days earlier criticized the "injustice and humiliation imposed on the Palestinian people," and called for a halt to military reprisals by Israel that followed a wave of suicide bombings that has killed dozens of Israeli citizens.
Peers, who visited Palestinian areas last spring with a group of Canadian church leaders, said the group was "horrified by the state of constant fear imposed on the Palestinian people by the armed forces of Israel."
Healing will begin only when Israel withdraws from its "illegal" occupation of Palestine and when civilians are no longer the "targets of terror, either for suicide bombers or government tanks," said Peers. "Any other path will simply entrench violence and death as the norm for this generation and many generations to come."
Pardy said the Middle East situation continues to deteriorate and that the United Church deplores all acts of terrorism including "those of individuals and those that are state-sponsored by both Palestinians and Israelis." She added the only lasting path to peace is through justice for all the peoples.
"While feeling deeply for Israeli victims, and passionately for the continued security and well-being of Israel, the United Church nevertheless strongly states that at the root of the violence and instability of the region is Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territories," said Pardy.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops also commented May 5 on the Middle East situation, but did not refer to Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands. Bishop Jacques Berthelet, the CCCB president, said in a message both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to live "in security and harmony, in mutual respect and recognition. They also must be governed wisely, "in order to bring irrational extremism and radical factions under control and to diminish the murderous acts of violence."
Berthelet called on the federal government to "undertake the necessary initiatives for ending the war and risking peace in the Middle East, thus preventing a widening of the conflict and favouring a return to negotiations on the basis of United Nations resolutions, as well as the Madrid and Oslo accords that held out so much hope for peace."
The Canadian church coalition, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, which includes CCCB, took a similar stand as Peers and Pardy in a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham.